That’s how we’d put it in Maltese. Mejjet bil-ġuħ. I criticised Robert Abela and his government for changing the law to remove the cross-party consensus requirement to appoint the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. I called the action anti-democratic, a regression on governance standards that in this country are too low to begin with.
But now I must criticise the government’s nominee, Joe Azzopardi, former judge, and chief justice, who is counting down the clock which the new law has started that will see him appointed as commissioner for standards within 3 weeks of a large minority in Parliament (all Opposition MPs) voting against him.
A vote was taken yesterday, and Joe Azzopardi was rejected by the opposition party for the position that is meant to scrutinise all persons in public life.
The fact he doesn’t seem to think that is enough to withdraw his acceptance of the nomination shows what sort of commissioner he is going to be. It shows he is more interested in his position than in the function he is supposed to serve. It shows he is willing to take sides with the government in the interests of his own preservation. It shows he is utterly unsuitable to be commissioner for standards in public life.
His conduct even before taking office is a warning to any citizen who might think to resort to his powers and his moral authority to seek redress when a person in public life conducts themselves beneath acceptable standards. He will take sides. He will take the side that is more likely to serve his interests and his survival.
As he now shelters behind a new law that is in and of itself a lowering of governance standards, he will, when you ask him to investigate misconduct by the people who have given him his job, prefer the lowering of standards over their upholding.
In Maltese we would say he must be starving for needing this job so badly, even at the cost of his reputation as a figure of integrity so late in his career, even after his retirement from one of the highest offices of the land.
Joe Azzopardi, you’re pathetic. And it’s not just the confidence of the opposition that you have failed to secure. Your conduct on the eve of your swearing implicitly tells all citizens that they must not trust you or your judgement.
The pity is not that you have disgraced yourself at the beginning of your job as commissioner for standards. The real pity is that you have disgraced yourself at the end of a long career on the bench.
Enjoy your lunch.